837-page Budget Bill Has Republicans Crying Foul

The State Senate was scheduled to convene a special session at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, but did not gavel in until 3:30 p.m. Just hours before, Democrats unveiled the 837-page implementer bill, a piece of legislation executing new programs and services funded in the budget that can also serve as a catch-all for unfinished legislative business.  While the budget itself passed with significant bipartisan support, Republicans expressed their opposition to the implementer bill, arguing that they will not have sufficient time to read the document before voting.  “The fact that they’re not in, speaks volumes to the problems with the

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DuBois-Walton Makes Her Case for New Haven Mayor

Karen DuBois-Walton is challenging incumbent New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker in the Democratic primary. She has focused much of her campaign on addressing a significant rise in incidents of homicide and assault with a deadly weapon after a decade of steadily declining crime in New Haven. DuBois-Walton is executive director of New Haven’s Housing Authority, and previously served as the city’s chief of staff and chief administrative officer under Mayor John DeStefano Jr. Connecticut Examiner spoke with DuBois-Walton about why public safety is at the core of her campaign platform, as well as how she differs from her opponent on

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Votes on Marijuana, Carbon Caps, Head to Overtime in Special Session

While this year’s legislative session came to a close on Wednesday night with the bipartisan passage of the state budget, lawmakers will be back in Hartford shortly for a special session to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana, along with other Democratic legislative priorities.  The Senate passed a bill on recreational marijuana before the close of session early Tuesday morning, but will be forced to vote again in special session, after Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, declined to call the bill for a vote in the House on Wednesday, after Republican leaders would not agree to limit debate on the legislation to

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RJ Julia Hosts Lamont and Boehner Chat

Gov. Ned Lamont spoke with former Speaker of the House John Boehner about his new memoir, “On the House,” in a Zoom conversation hosted by independent bookstore RJ Julia Booksellers of Madison on Friday.  The two politicians discussed political polarization, and Boehner shared thoughts and memories of working with President Barack Obama, President Joe Biden, Sen. Ted Cruz, and more. A member of the Republican Party, Boehner served in Congress from 1991 to 2015, and as Speaker for the last four years of his tenure. In a nod to Boehner’s book cover, and well-known love of Merlot, Lamont joined the

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Lawmakers Sound off on Budget with Bipartisan Support

Connecticut has a budget for the next two years, as Gov. Ned Lamont prepares to sign into law a state spending plan that received significant bipartisan support in the House and Senate. The $46.4 billion budget was approved 116-31 in the House on Wednesday morning, and 31-4 in the Senate later that evening. Lamont called it “the most progressive, transformative, and life-changing budget our state has ever seen,” adding that “the investments in equity will lift up our state for generations to come.”  The budget leverages about $1.75 billion in federal pandemic relief funds, leaving a surplus of more than

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Osten Explains Her ‘Yea’ on Marijuana

Early Tuesday morning, the State Senate passed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut. The proposal received bipartisan support and opposition, and passed with just a two-vote margin of 19-17, and is waiting for a vote in the House Wednesday evening.  After a debate that stretched for hours on the Senate floor, Connecticut Examiner spoke with several legislators to get insight into how they ended up deciding to cast their votes. State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, voted in support of the legislation.  This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.  How did you decide to support the bill?  I’ve

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Bradley Explains His ‘No’ Vote on Marijuana

Early Tuesday morning, the State Senate passed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut. The proposal received bipartisan support and opposition, and passed with just a two-vote margin of 19-17, and is waiting for a vote in the House.  After a debate that stretched for hours on the Senate floor, Connecticut Examiner spoke with several legislators to get insight into how they ended up deciding to cast their votes. State Sen. Dennis Bradley, D-Bridgeport, who has made news recently after being charged with five counts of wire fraud related to state campaign funding, voted against the legislation. This interview has

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Anwar Explains His ‘No’ on Marijuana

Early Tuesday morning, the State Senate passed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut. The proposal received bipartisan support and opposition, and passed with just a two-vote margin of 19-17. The House will now take up the bill Wednesday, with House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, saying he is confident it will pass before the end of the session at midnight.  After a debate that stretched for hours on the Senate floor, Connecticut Examiner spoke with several legislators to get insight into how they ended up deciding to cast their votes. State Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, voted against

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Cohen Explains Her ‘No’ on Marijuana

Early Tuesday morning, the State Senate passed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. The proposal received bipartisan support and opposition, and passed with just a two-vote margin of 19-17. The House will now take up the bill Wednesday, with House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, saying he is confident it will pass before the end of the session at midnight.  Connecticut Examiner spoke to several legislators who spent hours debating the bill on the Senate floor to get insight into how they ended up deciding to cast their votes. State Sen. Christine Cohen, D-Guilford, voted against the

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Formica Explains His ‘No’ on Marijuana

Early Tuesday morning, the State Senate passed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut. The proposal received bipartisan support and opposition, and passed with just a two-vote margin of 19-17. The House will now take up the bill Wednesday, with House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, saying he is confident it will pass before the end of the session at midnight.  After a debate that stretched for hours, Connecticut Examiner spoke with several legislators to get insight into how they ended up deciding to cast their votes. State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, was one of the votes against

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Needleman Explains His ‘Yea’ on Marijuana

Early Tuesday morning, the State Senate passed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut. The proposal received bipartisan support and opposition, and passed with just a two-vote margin of 19-17. The House will now take up the bill Wednesday, with House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, saying he is confident it will pass before the end of the session at midnight.  After a debate that stretched for hours on the Senate floor, Connecticut Examiner spoke with several legislators to get insight into how they ended up deciding to cast their votes. State Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, was one of

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House and Senate Overwhelming Approve Equal Parenting for LGBTQ Couples

When couples in Connecticut welcome a child into their family, the process often comes with legal complications and bureaucratic burdens for LGBTQ couples not faced by other couples. That unequal burden is the target of a bill in the legislature that would provide equal access to the security of a legal parent-child relationship, regardless of sexual orientation or marital status.  As the law stands now, an unmarried mother with a male partner can simply fill out a form in the hospital after giving birth to acknowledge the man as the father of their child for the birth certificate. An unmarried

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Bill to Streamline Medical Coverage Waits for Vote in the House

A bill to limit health insurers from requiring “step therapy” is waiting for a vote in the House. Step therapy is a protocol establishing the order in which doctors can prescribe drugs for specific medical conditions, generally requiring patients try cheaper options before “stepping up” to more expensive treatments.  Connecticut law currently prohibits the use of step therapy for the treatment of stage four metastatic cancer, and this bill would expand that prohibition to include any behavioral health condition or a disabling, chronic, or life-threatening condition or disease.  Insurers oppose the bill, with the Connecticut Association of Health Plans testifying

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Eric Foster Takes Five Questions on Business, Debt and Bankruptcy

Eric Foster is a business lawyer and debtor rights attorney in Old Saybrook, who has been practicing law for more than 28 years. Foster formerly worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where he focused on the regulation of the lending activities of banks. Now, Foster advises small business owners and advocates for debtors, helping them negotiate loans or file for bankruptcy. In a conversation with CT Examiner, Foster shared his perspective on the state of consumer rights in Connecticut.  In the aftermath of the pandemic, what is the state of bankruptcies in Connecticut?  During COVID, there was

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Caroline Simmons Makes Her Case for Mayor

State Rep. Caroline Simmons, D-Stamford, announced a primary challenge against incumbent Democrat David Martin in the Stamford mayoral election. Also competing for the seat, is independent candidate Bobby Valentine, a former Major League Baseball manager and player. What inspired you to run for Mayor of Stamford?  I love this city, and I want to make it work better for the people of Stamford. I believe we’re at a critical turning point right now. Amidst this pandemic, we can’t go back to the way things were.  So many people are struggling, and thousands are out of work. We’re facing challenges to

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Crisis Pregnancy Center Advertising Targeted by Pending Legislation in State Legislature

A bill that would ban what abortion rights advocates describe as deceptive advertising at crisis pregnancy centers is waiting for a vote on the House floor after passing the Senate 21-15 on May 5th. The legislation has faced bipartisan opposition, with Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, and two other Democrats joining the Republicans to vote against the legislation. The proposal has been considered by legislators in four previous legislative sessions, most recently passing the Health Committee and House, but dying without a vote in the Senate in 2019.  Supporters of the proposal argue that “limited services pregnancy centers,” which do not

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Bobby Valentine Makes His Case for Mayor

Former Major League Baseball player and manager Bobby Valentine announced an independent run for mayor of his native Stamford last week, challenging incumbent Democrat David Martin and State Rep. Caroline Simmons, D-Stamford. Valentine owns a restaurant and sports academy in the city, and currently serves as athletic director at Sacred Heart University.  What inspired you to run for Mayor of Stamford?  I was inspired by the timing of my life. If I’m ever going to get into public service, which is one of the boxes I’ve always wanted to check, it’s now or it’s never. In the aftermath of the

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As Unemployment Remains Double Pre-Pandemic Levels, Businesses Struggle to Hire Workers

“I’ve never seen so many ‘We’re Hiring’ signs,” said Mel Goggin, owner of Mel’s Downtown Creamery, which has locations in Pawcatuck and Colchester.  Her ice cream shops should be rearing up for a busy, eventful summer, but they’ve run into a roadblock reported by many Connecticut small businesses: hiring. Goggin said she’s struggled to hire enough workers to operate her creameries, with job postings languishing online getting few relevant responses. Even their ice cream supplier is struggling to find workers, leaving “a lot of flavors out of stock” in her creameries. While Goggin said she’d love to offer higher wages

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Lawmakers Poised to Establish Office of Pandemic Preparedness, Buck Advice of State Health Officials

As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to wane, Connecticut lawmakers say they want to make sure the state is prepared for the next one.  Legislators are poised to pass a bill establishing a state Office of Pandemic and Public Health Preparedness, which would manage inventories for personal protective equipment, ventilators, hospital beds, and vaccine storage. The office would also help connect businesses to local providers of PPE, and work to improve the state’s medical supply chain. The Appropriations Committee budget released last week allocated $300,000 to the Office of Pandemic Preparedness for the 2022 and 2023 fiscal years.  “If we’d had

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Therapists Relate Patient Struggles Toward Normalcy as COVID Subsides

All signs point to what should be a summer of reuniting with loved ones, reentering society, and to some degree, returning to normalcy for Connecticut residents. But in a series of interviews, therapists told CT Examiner that many of their clients with clinical anxiety may not be ready to go back out into the world just yet.  “My clients with anxiety are freaking out right now,” said Chantel Herron Elliott, a licensed clinical social worker in Danbury. “I would love to say that they’re happy to go out into the world, but for a lot of them, no. I’ll be

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Federal Aid to Be Directed Toward Temporary Attorney Hires, Reducing Court Backlogs

When jury trials were halted across Connecticut to limit the spread of COVID-19, the result was a significant backlog of cases. Now with jury trials set to begin, Dan Barrett, legal director for the ACLU of Connecticut, estimates that this backlog could take four years to work through.  In an effort to address the issue, Gov. Ned Lamont aims to use some of Connecticut’s federal COVID-19 aid funding to reduce this backlog more quickly, directing $12 million to increasing staff and expanding community services. The plan allocates $7 million — split between fiscal year 2022 and 2023 — toward hiring

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Staffing a Concern for Connecticut’s Expanded Summer Enrichment Programs

Gov. Lamont announced $11 million in federal funding will be directed toward expanding summer enrichment and recreation programs for Connecticut students.   Summer enrichment providers will be able to apply for two types of grants to support their programming this summer. Expansion grants of up to $25,000 are geared towards local organizations to subsidize enrollment costs or expand the population of children they serve.  Regional or statewide organizations can apply for innovation grants of up to $250,000 to create new programming or implement programs on a broader scale. The state Department of Education anticipates that 25,000 students will benefit from the

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Bipartisan Deal on Unemployment to Address $712 Million Debt

After more than half a million Connecticut residents lost their jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund was in need of financial assistance. Over the course of the current recession, Connecticut has borrowed more than $712 million, a debt that will need to be repaid with interest.  These problems have existed long before the pandemic. Connecticut had to borrow $1.25 billion during the Great Recession, and the trust fund has been insolvent for 48 of the last 50 years.  Gov. Ned Lamont, alongside leaders from business, labor and the legislature, announced a bipartisan proposal to bring

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A Year Without Jury Trials

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After more than a year without jury trials in the state of Connecticut, lawyers and legal observers warn that the effects of the delay will far outlast the pandemic.  Already hundreds of defendants, convicted of no crime, have sat in pretrial detention for the past year – some held for bail amounts of as little as $1485 – as many others are released back into their communities to await trials that may not come for years. Witnesses have moved, memories have faded, and in some cases, victims of sexual assault share neighborhoods with their alleged perpetrators.  Criminal jury trials can

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Lamont Announces $58 Million Federal Grant to Tackle Homelessness Over 10 Years

Alongside U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge and Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Gov. Ned Lamont announced $58 million in federal dollars to fund affordable housing and services for the homeless in a press conference Wednesday afternoon.  “The Department of Housing and Urban Development has allocated American Rescue Plan funds to those who have borne the brunt of this crisis: people experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness,” Fudge said. “Five billion dollars in homelessness assistance has been allocated to 651 grantees, including states, tribal areas and local governments, to help communities increase affordable housing and

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Courtney Outlines Federal Aid for the Arts at Shoreline Arts Alliance Roundtable

Rep. Joe Courtney, the Democrat representing Connecticut’s second congressional district, joined the Shoreline Arts Alliance on Friday for a virtual roundtable discussion of federal pandemic relief for the arts.  Courtney shared that the initial pandemic relief from the federal government last year was just a general infusion into the economy in an attempt to mitigate a financial crisis. However, by the end of 2020, he said lawmakers had a much better sense of which industries were going to be hardest hit by the virus, and knew that the arts industry needed particular assistance.  This inspired the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant,

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Rollout on Track, Despite Pause for Johnson & Johnson Doses

Connecticut state leaders told vaccine providers to pause use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.  The CDC announcement came as a result of six people in the United States who developed cerebral blood clots in the two weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. More than 6.8 million Americans have received the Johnson & Johnson shot. About 100,000 people in Connecticut have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and none have reported serious side effects, according to the state Department of Public Health. The state has leveraged its

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Connecticut Leaders Urge Rollback For Cap on State and Local Tax Deductions

Gov. Ned Lamont, alongside the Democratic governors of New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon, California and Hawaii, issued a letter last Friday imploring President Joe Biden to support a repeal of the federal cap on state and local tax deductions.  The Tax Cut and Jobs Act, signed into law in 2017 by then-President Donald Trump, placed a $10,000 cap on SALT deductions for federal tax filings. As a result, high earners in higher-tax states like Connecticut would be able to deduct only half of local property taxes, for example, from their federal taxes. The governors described the cap as a

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Lamont, Courtney Highlight Economic Development in New London

NEW LONDON — Gov. Ned Lamont and Rep. Joe Courtney shared their economic optimism for southeastern Connecticut at a press conference in New London on Wednesday morning. Courtney offered details of President Joe Biden’s newly announced plan to aid the offshore wind industry with low interest loans and expedited federal approval. The Connecticut Port Authority, in cooperation with Eversource and Ørsted, has begun redeveloping State Pier in New London to support the installation offshore wind turbines. “What we’re talking about here is a multigenerational change in terms of how America is going to power its economy and New London is

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Predicting a “Great Summer,” Lamont Shares Plans for Summer Camps and Vocational Programs

Gov. Ned Lamont shared his optimism with the Connecticut business community at a virtual breakfast event Wednesday morning hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, highlighting what he described as the success of Connecticut’s vaccination rollout and previewing potential partnerships for workforce development.  Predicting that will be a “great summer” for Connecticut’ business community, Lamont said he was proud that Connecticut was one of the first states in the region to begin rebounding from the pandemic. “I feel like we’re in the ninth inning of this COVID year that’s been really brutal for small business, brutal for the

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